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Cut Line: Poults' Ryder rise; Slow play plague

By Rex HoggardApril 20, 2018, 5:55 pm

In this week’s edition, Colonial enjoys a sponsorship reprieve, the Ryder Cup gets an early boost and it’s time for officials at the Zurich Classic to consider relocation.

Made Cut

See you in September. Just when you thought it might be too early to start the biennial Ryder Cup build up, Ian Poulter, Europe’s own Mr. September, gave the Continent something to celebrate with another solid finish last week at the RBC Heritage.

Although he failed to convert a 54-hole lead, tying for seventh after a closing 75, he earned enough points to move onto the European team bubble (world points), just behind current automatic qualifier Alex Noren.

That the English thorn in America’s Ryder Cup side made his move one week after Patrick Reed wrapped up his spot on the team with his victory at the Masters is all the reason one needs to imagine the possibilities.

Note to U.S. captain Jim Furyk: You can probably pencil in your opening match of Reed-Jordan Spieth vs. Poulter-Rory McIlroy. Oh, and Sunday’s singles – Reed vs. Poulter – as well.

Don’t mess with Texas. Although the PGA Tour is still a few weeks away from unveiling the overhauled 2018-19 schedule, a few more pieces fell into place this week.

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

There had been some handwringing that the Fort Worth staple, which needed to scramble this season to find replacement sponsors when Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, would be the victim of poor timing when the music stopped.

But officials are poised to announce the new long-term sponsorship deal on Monday and sources also confirmed that the event will remain in May, which had been another concern on the imminent overhaul of the Tour schedule.

Next up for the Tour: finding sponsors for The National and Houston Open.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Location, location, location. The high on Friday in Farmingdale, N.Y., topped out at 47 degrees.

Cut Line doesn’t have to explain to his friends in the northeast how long winter has lingered this season, but it’s worth pointing out that with the PGA Championship moving to May next year these long cold spells could impact conditions at future venues, like Bethpage Black, which will host the 2019 PGA.

Although this year’s PGA, which will be played in August at Bellerive Country Club, won’t be impacted, when you consider that three of the next six championships are scheduled to be played in northern states, it’s beginning to seem more likely that geography is not on the PGA of America’s side.

Bayou breakthrough. If the field for this year’s Zurich Classic is any indication, the team format that officials introduced in 2017 remains popular, which is an encouraging sign for golf in New Orleans.


It’s time now for tournament officials to continue that progress and break free of TPC Louisiana, an uninspired layout that’s too far removed from the French Quarter and not exactly popular with players.

About a year ago, officials opened the South Course at City Park, a community-based program modeled after the East Lake project in Atlanta with a mission to revitalize City Park and the surrounding neighborhoods.

For years, insiders have considered the City Park layout, which was designed by Rees Jones, an alternative to TPC Louisiana. It’s time to stop talking about moving the event to City Park and make it happen. The tournament deserves better. The city deserves better.


Tweet(s) of the week: We go with a pair of hot takes from two of the game’s most insightful and thoughtful types on what remains one of golf’s most talked-about subjects – slow play.


Missed Cut

Money trail. During his last year as commissioner of the PGA Tour, Tim Finchem earned a combined income of over $9 million.

According to the circuit’s tax forms filed for 2016, Finchem made $4.33 million in “reportable compensation” from the Tour and another $4.74 million from “related organizations.” He also earned $181,784 in “other compensation.”

Compared to 2015, when Finchem earned $5.9 million in combined income, that’s a healthy bump. To be fair, when Finchem retired after nearly 20 years of leading the circuit most observers agreed that the Tour’s unprecedented growth during his tenure justified his salary, and compared to other professional sports leagues the commissioner’s “take home” was not out of the ordinary.

It is, however, worth noting that Finchem earned more than just one player in 2016, Dustin Johnson, who narrowly clipped the commissioner with $9.3 million in on-course earnings. It’s good to be the commish, or former commish.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.